Adhesion of mesenchymal stem cells to polymer scaffolds occurs via distinct ECM ligands and controls their osteogenic differentiation

J Biomed Mater Res A. 2006 Jul;78(1):73-85. doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.30686.


The osteogenic potential of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) cultured on poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) or poly(caprolactone) (PCL), two widely used polymeric biomaterials that have been reported to differentially support osteogenic differentiation, was compared in these studies. Here we report that MSCs cultured in 3-D PLGA scaffolds for up to 5 weeks significantly upregulate osteocalcin gene expression levels. By contrast, osteocalcin expression was markedly downregulated in 3-D PCL-based constructs over the same time course. We hypothesized that differential adsorption of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins present in serum-containing culture medium and subsequent differences in integrin-mediated adhesion are responsible for these differences, and tested this hypothesis using thin (2-D) polymeric films. Supporting this hypothesis, significant amounts of fibronectin and vitronectin deposited onto both materials in serum-containing osteogenic media, with type-I collagen present in lower amounts. Adhesion-blocking studies revealed that MSCs adhere to PCL primarily via vitronectin, while type-I collagen mediates their attachment to PLGA. These adhesive mechanisms correlated with higher levels of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity after 2 weeks of monolayer culture on PLGA versus PCL. These data suggest that the initial adhesion of MSCs to PLGA via type-I collagen fosters osteogenesis while adhesion to PCL via vitronectin does not, and stress the need for an improved molecular understanding of cell-ECM interactions in stem cell-based therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid*
  • Ligands
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Osteogenesis* / drug effects
  • Polyglycolic Acid*
  • Polylactic Acid-Polyglycolic Acid Copolymer
  • Polymers*
  • Time Factors


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Ligands
  • Polymers
  • Polylactic Acid-Polyglycolic Acid Copolymer
  • Polyglycolic Acid
  • Lactic Acid